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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 4 November 2006
I'm not wholly convinced of the review below that feels this is more extreme than the previous year's `Locust Abortion Technician' - I'm of the mind that those Butthole Surfers were on the path to a pop of sorts, away from `Locust...' and the previous album `Rembrandt Pussyhorse.' Their fine albums that followed were more conventional, but always worth a punt, and `Hairway to Steven' charts that transition.

The sound of `Locust Abortion Technician' is most definitely continued with epic opener `Jimi', twelve minutes of primal drumming, distorted vocals, Sabbath riffs, and related oddness. Gibby's vocals hear definitely sound in the same ballpark as Prince's Camille-distortions on `The Black Album', notably the superfine `Bob George' - compare and contrast pop kids, compare and contrast...

`Jimi' seems to continue and conclude the previous album, much of the record that follows is a lot more listenable, c'mon be honest, there are songs here, whereas the previous album only really had one conventional song (the mighty `Human Cannonball'). `Ricky' sounds like a much tighter 13th Floor Elevators, with a hint of hardcore, Morricone, and Sabbath , while the charming `I Saw an X-Ray of a Girl Passing Gas' demonstrates the vast debt Flaming Lips & Mercury Rev owe the band - Gibby's vocals almost like Buddy Holly at one point. This is catchy psychedelia with some lovely acoustic guitars and a great "Hey! Hey!" sounds like pop in my demented world!

`John E. Smokes' opens with a crowd noise, a bit Santana and a bit Tenacious D with some Ry Cooder style guitar before the drums come in - supreme stuff. `Rocky' is more jangly acoustic driven psychedelic pop, Butthole Surfers being key behind the new wave of psychedelia that followed (see also The Teardrop Explodes, Julian Cope, Bongwater, the Paisley Underground, Spacemen 3, PTV) - in the years that followed acts like the Lips, the Rev, The Kingsbury Manx, Royal Trux (I think `Twin Infinitives' is very Buttholes influenced), Neutral Milk Hotel, Silver Jews, Comets on Fire, Espers, Screaming Trees etc have followed these paths. `Julio Iglesias' sounds like the Cramps on a Beefheart tip, which can only be a great thing, this is way less noisy and TG-Sabbath colliding than the previous two Buttholes albums. `Backass' is closer to the earlier stuff, but there's still a song there, the final track `Fart Song' sounds like American hardcore, but delivered in Gibby's manipulated vocal style...all great stuff then.

`Hairway to Steven' (what a great title! What a great cover!) is a truly great album, certainly a more listenable Butthole Surfers than their earlier stuff - personally I drive round to `Locust Abortion Technician' often and think it's quite normal to sing along to '22 Going on 23', `Kuntz', or `Sweat Loaf.' But if you want a poppier take on their sound, this is a fine place to begin, and if you dig Beefheart, Dr John, or the Lips, this feels like a relative! Good to see Gibby is back on the upcoming PTV3 album and that Butthole Surfers have new material in the pipeline. How could we live without them?
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VINE VOICEon 12 July 2005
So there I was sorting through some old C90 tapes when I came across one with Hairway to Steven on. To cut a long story short I played it and well, it was a timely reminder a time when you could listen to an album by an artist and have your preconceptions of what it would sound like blown away. Their previous the bilious profane sewer blues "Locust Abortion Technician" only hinted broadly at what Hairway To Steven would eventually offer- The galloping splurging rock of" Human Cannonball" or the orgiastic painful but empathising guitar solo at the climax of ""22 Going On 23"- offer pre -cogency of much of the material here, but no could have envisaged it would bloom such succulent malodorous fruit.
The tracks are marked by symbols -mostly obscene - but several of them have become identified by common song titles so the opener is known as "Jimmy", and is a riot of warped vocals and sensibilities, a tour de force of bacchanalia, the twin drum sound pounding tribal rhythms and the guitars swelling like monstrous tumours of sound. The penultimate track called "Hairway" is a similar rarefied racket of shrieking guitars and tangled thickets of noise. "Johnny Smoke" is a semi acoustic tear up over which Gibby who proves himself more than a capable vocalist on this album, declaims like some bonkers preacher. Best of all is "X Ray of a Girl" which is perceived to be a tale of love at first sight, but is set to a fantastic rollicking pop melody, with bizarre backing vocals like baritone gremlins and a truly memorable climaxing solo which spirals into the stratosphere like some some colossal space bound dragon fly.
On this album the Buttholes took the sonic possibilities of rock to some horrific but compelling extreme, jettisoning many of the disabling attitudes that had held rock music in some sort of cultural half nelson and slamming them to the mat, before defecating on it's prone twitching body .The Buttholes burrowed into the most fetid channels of the human form/ psyche and then exploded out heading for some puerile nirvana but achieving a kind of euphoric vastness. Few bands could sink so low, or so high. On this album they do both.....sometimes within the same song.
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VINE VOICEon 21 February 2009
Oh, you're just going to HATE this! The chattering voices, the silly noises, the feedback.

And yet when all's said and done, the BHs are quite melodic. There's rhythmic acoustic guitar and, well, melodies! 'X-Ray Of A Girl' could even be a pop song. Sure, there's plenty of searing electric guitar and heavy rock with a thumping rhythm coming from the dual drummers. But you can listen to this sort of thing. It's still there for those who like things odd and avant garde, but it's not a closed book to the rest of us.

Butthole Surfers are here in transition, from punk experimentalists to leftfield popsters. They never went the whole way, thankfully, but we even get to hear flashes of 70s rock. The good stuff, mind. They once did a song called 'The Annoying Song', and everything about this album is slightly annoying yet slightly beautiful.
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on 19 February 2008
The only remastered version of this CD is on the Latino Bugger Veil label, LBV-07. See the separate listing for this album with a release date of 2000. I have ordered this CD from 3 separate suppliers (one of which was Amazon) and each time I got the old Blast First recording which is dreadful quality.
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on 24 August 2010
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on 4 March 2008
insane, epic, hallucinatory peaks and troughs. with a couple of pop songs thrown in for good measure. criminally underrated rock n roll.
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on 1 December 2014
THE best releases by these great guys, it's got the lot! buy this!
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on 6 March 2016
The original acid rockers I think this album is there best....
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on 26 March 2000
No song titles. Just line drawings to illustrate the songs (Examples? a urinating horse, or a defecating reindeer? . I suppose a picture paints a thousand words). At its best, riff heavy hard rock that would make Black Sabbath proud. At its worst, 10 minute self indulgent country rock garbage. Fortunately the former outnumbers the latter. A wildly inconsistant album that, at times shows the Butthole Surfers at their very best
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